University lecturer wants assisted dying legalised after losing mother and sister to cancer

By Jessica Tyson

University of Canterbury lecturer Te Hurinui Karaka-Clarke is calling for assisted dying to become legal after watching his mother and sister suffer prolonged agony before they died of cancer.

Karaka-Clarke knows many Māori think assisted dying doesn’t fit with tikanga Māori but he disagrees.

“I believe that tikanga Māori is evolving. There is a whakatauki phrase ‘Me whati te tikanga, kia ora ai te tikanga’. There are times when tikanga needs to be broken for tikanga to survive.”

Karaka-Clarke says his mother was a devout Catholic, stern in tikanga Maori practices.

“She fought as much as she could and said to m,e if the choice for assisted dying had been available, she would have taken it.”

Karaka-Clarke says his mother wanted assisted dying, not so much because of the pain but because she felt a loss of dignity.

Dying with dignity

“Euthanasia should be legalised because people want a choice and all we’re doing is denying them a choice to allow themselves to die with dignity and for me it really is about dying with dignity, maintaining dignity in your last few months or days.”

New Zealanders will get the chance to vote on the End of Life Choice Act at this year’s general election in September. The act would give people with a terminal illness the option of requesting assisted dying.

“I think there is enough support for the legislation to go through. There certainly is and that’s why the referendum is being raised and New Zealand First said it would support the legislation if more than 50 per cent of the country would support it,” Karaka-Clarke says.

He says people who don’t support the legislation either come from a faith-based background or have a moral dislike for it.

“They are difficult to convince because it doesn’t matter what type of research you put in front of them, they will always find research to counter.”

New Zealanders will have the opportunity to vote on the act on election day, Saturday, September 19.